The Suitcase Lady


May 22, 2018, 10:15 pm

I spent the first half of my day today doing a science and art project about elephants with 42 enthusiastic, happy first and second graders. When we finished, the kids went to lunch and I left to pick up groceries. Checking out at Trader Joe’s, I was asked by the young cashier, “And how are you going to spend the rest of your day?”.

I paused a second and then truthfully answered his question. “I’m going to visit two cemeteries”.

The check out person had been schooled to ask the question, but not on how to handle an accurate answer. Seeing how hard he was struggling to find appropriate words, I filled the gap by saying, “I don’t want to forget my family, they were good people”.

Contact with the living did not occur in the two cemeteries I subsequently visited. Despite the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, I saw no one bringing flowers or trimming headstones. Death is not in style in America.

For many decades, especially on this holiday week, I marvel at a piece of insight from the celebrated American novelist, Reynolds Price. He noted that our elderly and deceased family members allow us to reach back and “touch” history. After reading his words, I paid more attention to the dates on our family tombstones.

My grandfather was born in 1864, and though he died before I was born, he gives me a link back to the Civil War. His wife, my grandmother, was born in 1878 and lived a long life. I was fortunate to spend countless hours with her, a woman who lived through Reconstruction, the end of the frontier, the Industrial Revolution, the First World War, a Great Depression, the Second World War and the beginning of the jet age. Learning about history from someone who has lived it beats any secondhand account from a textbook or computer site.

You might not want to spend next weekend wandering around in a cemetery, but you might try seeing how far back you can personally wander in history. It’s mind altering….no drugs needed.

1 Comment for this entry

  • Alyce Weiss

    We did the same thing this week. These visits stir up good memories. I also like to remember my family.